It doesn’t matter if you are learning easy guitar songs or performing to a 100,000 strong audience, playing the guitar has massive health benefits. I had never really thought about this before, but when my usual doctor asked me what my hobbies were (probably to make sure eating burgers and sleeping weren’t the main ones) and I told him I played and taught guitar, his response was “what a great thing to do to maintain your health.” I’d never really thought about it before, so I asked him how, to which he replied, tell me what is involves and what you enjoy about it.”
So I told him and his paraphrased responses are below:
The Doc: This will help keep your brain sharp as you need to concentrate and remember and replay what you have learnt. It is the same effect as reading a book, revising for exams and learning a new language or recalling historical facts. Some research even indicates it could help stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia. When I got home I did some research of my own and stumbled across a paper issued following research conducted in 2010 by Emory University’s Department of Neurology which concluded that playing a musical instrument from an early age helps retain cognitive skills that others could lose.
Me: Playing Live and Acting Like a Teenager
The Doc: This all great exercise and, even at 56 years old (I didn’t need reminding) continuing to keep your heart active and your joints working and active is a great thing – whilst you are able!!! Being sedentary all the time does not help the body retain some of its useful properties. And there is always good for your mind to feel energetic and youthful – nothing wrong with that if it puts a smile on your face. “Don’t worry…Be happy.”
Me: Focusing on achieving something that takes my playing to the next level.
The Doc: This is very much like learning new songs as it focuses your mind – in this case even more. (I agreed with this, as I really “get into the zone” if I need to really stretch myself). Think about the minor arthritis you have in your fingers and the tendonitis in your knees (yes – I am falling apart) does it bother you when you are playing?
Me: Having thought about it, I had to surmise that, although my fingers may need to warm up a bit, I tend to forget about any of my ailments and, to a certain extent, getting my fingers moving and making sure I am in a comfortable position seems to eradicate any pains. For example, I find it difficult to sit in a comfortable position when watching TV – when playing the guitar (sitting or standing) this tends puts any pain (perceived or not) to the back of my mind. Whether or not this is fact, I do not know, but it makes me feel better and helps maintain my motivation.
Me: The general enjoyment of picking up the guitar. Especially on an ad hoc basis when I see it on the guitar stand, screaming “play me.”
The Doc: You are basically doing something you really want to do. If you are interrupting doing something else at the time and then pick up your guitar, this proves the fact. Essentially, finding something you love, and acting on it, reduces stress and, it therefore follows, has a positive effect on reducing blood pressure and stress. It will relax you and put you in a positive frame of mind.
All of this is based on a conversation I had with my own GP, who is also a close friend. What struck me is the enthusiasm with which he spoke to me about the health benefits of playing the guitar – or any other musical instrument for that matter.
As well as our conversations, you can openly read testimonials about how learning guitar can simply make you happy, relax you and provide a level of determination, passion and motivation to grow and succeed.
Anyway, writing this article has aligned my thoughts to picking up my axe and thrashing out a couple of riffs I have recently learnt. In anticipation of this I can feel the endorphins rushing around my body.
But don’t take my word for it…..give it a go!!!